Zhou Investigation Raises Stakes For CPC Leadership
BMI View: The Communist Party of China (CPC) has launched an official investigation against former politburo standing committee member Zhou Yongkang, the party's most high profile target since at least the 1970s. Zhou's downfall has considerable implications for the party's top leadership moving forward, and suggests that President Xi Jinping's ongoing political purge has further to go.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has initiated an official inquiry into former head of state security and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) member Zhou Yongkang, capping a remarkable fall from grace for a man that was as recently as 2012 among the five most powerful politicians in China. Zhou has been under fire from the top echelons of the party since at least mid-2013, and has not been seen in public since October of last year. The move to officially investigate Zhou, who served as the head of the tremendously powerful Central Politics and Law Commission from 2007-2012, is an unprecedented step for the party, marking its most high profile target since at least the 1970s. Zhou will be the first current or former member of the PSC to be subjected to such an investigation, which sets a new standard for culpability among China's top leadership, which has historically been immune from such campaigns.
Proving the allegations of widespread corruption ('serious disciplinary violations', in CPC parlance) against Zhou will be for the party somewhat of a foregone conclusion, as reports indicate that the government has already seized nearly USD15.0bn in assets from Zhou's family and close associates. More broadly, however, the case against Zhou represents a new zenith for President Xi Jinping's ongoing political purge (see 'Political Purge Bolsters Xi's Reform Credentials', April 10 2014). The rift between Xi and Zhou, a classic power-broker with deep connections within China's state security apparatus as well as its top State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), has been well documented, and Zhou's fallen protege Bo Xilai was widely viewed as a top challenger to Xi's presidency.